I thoroughly enjoyed Laptops and Looms. Brilliant to get outside of my head, outside of London, and thinking about bits of culture and technology that I don’t have a professional excuse to anymore.
But… there’s a thorny thing in the back of my head that I want to get down before I forget to.
We spent a bit of time on two conversations which we’d sort of covered in 2011 and don’t really help people draw anything from them. They helped get us to interesting places, but I think we could have skipped them.
The first is about contacting makers and manufacturers. It’s hard to build a network of trust in an industry you don’t know. Really hard. We talked about making a wiki or something similar collecting the names of people each of us have found to be brilliant… except that’s no more likely to happen this time than when that got suggested last time. Far too much community management for something as informal as Laptops and Looms.
If manufacture isn’t business critical then it’s extremely unlikely you’ll ever put the legwork in to really compare a stack of suppliers. You won’t need to. If it is, then talking to people trusted by other people you trust will only be a small part of the dialogue necessary to finding the right people.
I’m one of those people who finds it hard to speak to people who might make you feel stupid. Whether it’s a milliner or a printer or whatever. My self-confidence is fragile and I find that stuff difficult. I have huge sympathy for people in the same situation. I don’t need a new service to solve that, I just need to get better at it… and I might not until I really need to. And that’s okay.
The second was on the merits of start-ups and start-up culture.
Imagine trying to solve that in twenty minutes of chat. Tip-toing and hand-wringing around the fact that a start-up – like any other kind of operating entity – is merely a mechanism. It is whatever the people running it want it to be, and while it can play a part in the culture that takes its name it doesn’t actually have to.
There’s a place for that kind of discussion, and that place is Medium.
The reason these conversations had room to happen is, basically, I’m not a great moderator. I get caught up in the chat and it’s only perspective that leads me to think ‘Oh, shame we didn’t use that time to talk about x instead.’ I’ve learned I don’t need to hear these conversations again. My inclination would be to have something at the next Laptops and Looms (2017 represent!) that effectively says ‘Folks, we’re not gonna solve this stuff… let’s talk about something else.’
So, to all attendees, sorry. If you got frustrated with that stuff blame me. If you had a lovely time then blame Greg and Russell – they did much more work than I did.